The head of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is calling the director of the FBI to testify before the panel this week amid Republican outrage over the decision not to recommend charges against Hillary Clinton.
Director James Comey will testify on Thursday morning, Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Individuals who intentionally skirt the law must be held accountable. Congress and the American people have a right to understand the depth and breadth of the FBI’s investigation,” Chaffetz said in a statement. “I thank Directory Comey for accepting the invitation to publicly answer these important questions.”
The hearing is unusual in the speed with which it was scheduled, just one day after Comey announced that, despite evidence of being “extremely careless,” Clinton should not face criminal charges for mishandling classified information.
It’s unclear how willing Comey will be to detail the terms of his bureau’s investigation into her private email server, following an already exceptional amount of public description on Tuesday.
The FBI is usually loathe to publicly release information about ongoing investigations, especially if no charges are brought. But Comey told reporters at the FBI’s headquarters on Tuesday that he felt compelled to explain the rationale behind the bureau’s decision not to recommend an indictment due to the guaranteed allegations that politics played a role in his thinking.
The decision from Comey, himself a Republican, outraged many GOP lawmakers who claimed that the FBI had reinterpreted the meaning of the law to allow Clinton to get away with putting national security in jeopardy. To add insult to apparent injury, President Obama appeared on the presidential campaign trail with Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, for the first time on Tuesday, mere hours after Comey’s announcement in downtown Washington.
“The FBI’s recommendation is surprising and confusing,” Chaffetz said on Wednesday. “The fact pattern presented by Director Comey makes clear Secretary Clinton violated the law.”
Brian Fallon, Clinton’s press secretary, took to Twitter to slam Republicans for calling Comey to testify.
“So House GOP will hold a hearing flogging Comey for not charging Clinton on same day Trump visits the Hill? This should end well,” he wrote.
So House GOP will hold a hearing flogging Comey for not charging Clinton on same day Trump visits the Hill? This should end well.
— Brian Fallon (@brianefallon) July 6, 2016
In addition to Comey, the Oversight Committee has invited State Department Inspector General Steve Linick and Intelligence Community Inspector General I. Charles McCullough III to testify on Thursday.
Chaffetz had hinted Tuesday night that a hearing with Comey might be possible, just hours after Comey delivered his announcement. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) also said on Fox News that his chamber would hold hearings on the decision despite the handful of days left before Congress leaves Washington for the parties’ nominating conventions later this month.
Many Democrats have dismissed concerns about the FBI probe, and top Oversight Committee Democrat Elijah Cummings (Md.) on Wednesday appeared to link it to polarizing congressional probes on Planned Parenthood and the 2012 terror attack in Benghazi, Libya.
“Since Republicans disagree with his recommendation, they are doing what they always do — using taxpayer funds to continue ‘investigating’ their baseless claims in an effort to bring down Secretary Clinton’s poll numbers,” Cummings said in a statement. “The only emergency here is that yet another Republican conspiracy theory is slipping away.”
Comey has a reputation as a no-nonsense law enforcement officer who has won plaudits on both sides of the aisle.
Ahead of his announcement this week, Republican critics of Clinton had hoped that he was the one voice of neutrality able to press ahead with action against Clinton. He also became a darling of some liberal civil liberties advocates during the George W. Bush administration, when, as deputy attorney general, he raced to a Washington hospital to prevent the White House from coercing then-Attorney General John Ashcroft from renewing a warrantless wiretapping program.
His appearance in the House on Thursday could be a defining moment for the lawman, whose term as FBI chief does not end until 2023.